Genital herpes

Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. About 1 in 4 women in the United States have had HSV-2 infection.

The virus will stay in the body forever. But outbreaks, for people who have them, tend to be less severe and occur less often over time. Also, antiviral therapy can shorten outbreaks and make them less severe, or keep them from happening.

Genital herpes: How you get it

Genital herpes is spread through genital-to-genital or genital-to-oral contact. It spreads most easily when an infected person has open sores. But you also can get herpes from an infected person who has no symptoms. You do not need to have intercourse to get herpes. You cannot get herpes from objects such as toilet seats, bathtubs, or towels.

Genital herpes symptoms

Most people have mild or no symptoms. For people who have “outbreaks,” the symptoms are clear:
• Small red bumps, blisters, or open sores show up where the virus entered the body, such as the penis, vagina, or mouth.
• Vaginal discharge.
• Fever.
• Headache.
• Muscle aches.
• Pain when passing urine.
• Itching, burning, or swollen glands in the genital area.
• Pain in legs, buttocks, or genital area.
• Symptoms may go away and then come back. Sores heal after 2 to 4 weeks.

Genital herpes: How to find out if you have it 

Your doctor can tell you if you have genital herpes by looking at the sores and by taking a sample from the sore for lab testing. It can be hard to tell if you have herpes without symptoms. Blood tests can help detect herpes when there are no symptoms or between outbreaks.
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